Decisions, decisions. With years of her life packed in boxes and stacked in storage, Pat McDermott finds it hard to let go of the clutter of family life.
About a year ago the MOTH (man of the house) and I went for a walk. On the way home, we bought an apartment. “You did what?” asked the first of our children to be told. “Seriously, Mum! Who goes for a walk and comes home with an apartment? Most people just get coffee!”
The other four wanted to know how two people who take 10 minutes to decide if they want milk in their tea could make a big decision so fast. “What about all our stuff? The things in the attic and the garage and the cupboards?” they muttered.
So here we are, the MOTH and I, at the entrance of McDermott Storage Unit #1, just down the corridor from McDermott Storage Unit #2. The MOTH heaved up the roller door. We could live here. There are beds, sofas and a dining table that seats eight. The storage units hold 232 boxes – many labelled “miscellaneous”.
In storage unit tradition, boxes marked “HEAVY” are stacked on top of ones marked “FRAGILE”. Those marked “KEEP TO THE FRONT” are behind the piano. I sat down on Box 199 (knives, heavy blue casserole, frying pan). “What if we hate apartment living and industrial chic?” I asked.
“Everybody loves exposed plumbing and cement,” the MOTH said, cheerfully. He was sitting on Box 19 (printer, old books, scary china monkey). “We’ll love it once we get used to it.”
A few weeks later, a copy of The LifeChanging Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo arrived in the mail from our son Patrick. “She’ll help you get rid of all the stuff you don’t need,” he assured me.
Politeness and mother-love kept me from mentioning his two bar stools in the attic. “Thanks, Patrick. I’ll be sure to send it back when I finish.”
“No, you keep it,” he insisted. “Kath and I are decluttering.”
I sat up late with Ms Kondo. Soon we were calling each other Marie and Pat.
“I will only purchase what fits me. If
I want to lose weight, I do that first and then shop.”
There’s an easier way, Marie. It’s called shapewear.
“Keep only those things that speak to your heart.”
Both the china cabinet and the piano speak to my heart. What do you suggest, Marie?
“The process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful.”
You are so right! I’m stuck in a hard place between a daughter’s wedding dress and a son’s surfboard. And then there’s my mum’s tea trolley. It was a wedding gift. There was a family feud over religion and the trolley rolled back and forth on its little wheels until peace broke out and everyone had a drink.
You see, Marie, I’m used to clutter. I grew up in a house full of things the dead might need in the afterlife like a pharaoh’s tomb. Stacks of books, an ancient dinner set for 40. Sixty years of National Geographic magazines. My absolutely favourite thing was a fox-fur stole, with head and paws attached. One look and you’d require resuscitation, Marie. And a stiff shot of sake.
The MOTH? He grew up in a three-bedroom house with six brothers and sisters.
Their clutter was in a place called, “under the house”. Our kids would disappear down the stairs and bring up treasures. Sometimes their grandad joined them under the house.
“See that old bicycle?” he’d say. “No brakes! Your dad rode it down a real steep hill one day. Ended badly, as I remember.
That’s why it’s so mangled. Your dad didn’t look too good either!” Laugh? They couldn’t stop for hours.
Perhaps decluttering can go too far. What do you think, Marie?
I saw a sign on a warehouse once.
“IF YOU STORE YOUR STUFF WITH US YOU WON’T HAVE TO VISIT YOUR PARENTS!”
It made me think, Marie. I’m hanging on to the bar stools.
My favourite thing was a fox-fur stole, with head and paws attached.
To connect with Pat on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/PatMcDermottau.